Back to Analysis.

Definitions of culture can be tricky, and when 'Organisation' is placed in front, it can become even more so. This page shows some of the definitions of 'Culture' and 'Organisational Culture' in the literature. The models themselves are discussed elsewhere in the analysis.

Definitions of 'Culture'

Oxford English Dictionary (2004)

"The distinctive ideas, customs, social behaviour, products, or way of life of a particular nation, society, people of period. Hence: a society or group characterised by such customs".

Wikipedia (

"Culture is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator, Cicero: "cultura animi". The term "culture" appeared first in its current sense in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to connote a process of cultivation or improvement, as inagriculture or horticulture. In the 19th century, the term developed to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-19th century, some scientists used the term "culture" to refer to a universal human capacity. For the German nonpositivist sociologist Georg Simmel, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history".

In the 20th century, "culture" emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term "culture" in American anthropology had two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. Hoebel describes culture as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.

Distinctions are currently made between the physical artifacts created by a society, its so-called material culture and everything else, the intangibles such as language, customs, etc. that are the main referent of the term "culture"."

Grant et al. (2010, p. 252)

"The combination of values, norms, beliefs and assumptions people commonly share within a community, take for granted and use to shape how they think and act is generally referred to as ‘culture’".

Definitions of 'Organisational Culture'

Wikipedia (

"Organisational culture is the collective behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders.
Ravasi and Schultz (2006) state that organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. At the same time although a company may have "own unique culture", in larger organizations, there is a diverse and sometimes conflicting cultures that co-exist due to different characteristics of the management team. The organizational culture may also have negative and positive aspects. Schein (2009), Deal & Kennedy (2000), Kotter (1992) and many others state that organizations often have very differing cultures as well as subcultures."

Deal and Kennedy (1982)

"The way things get done around here."

Willmott (1993, p. 516)

"Corporate culture is effectively a form of ‘social engineering’ at work that is designed to ‘win the hearts and minds of employees’, generate loyalty and commitment to the organization, to shared values about what the organization is, and what it stands for, and to encourage employees to internalize these values as their own values; but its ultimate aim is to improve productivity and performance."

Johnson (1988)

The cultural web....(Wikipedia)

  • The paradigm: What the organization is about, what it does, its mission, its values.
  • Control systems: The processes in place to monitor what is going on. Role cultures would have vast rulebooks. There would be more reliance on individualism in a power culture.
  • Organizational structures: Reporting lines, hierarchies, and the way that work flows through the business.
  • Power structures: Who makes the decisions, how widely spread is power, and on what is power based?
  • Symbols: These include organizational logos and designs, but also extend to symbols of power such as parking spaces and executive washrooms.
  • Rituals and routines: Management meetings, board reports and so on may become more habitual than necessary.
  • Stories and myths: build up about people and events, and convey a message about what is valued within the organization.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 20.15.12.png

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Comments MatthewW9 MatthewW9 1 42 May 4, 2013 by a.a77ree a.a77ree